How Can I Know That 2015 Will Be Wonderful?

On New Years Eve, in 2012, I literally declared on my facebook that it was going to be the BEST YEAR YET! And, I believed it with everything in me. But, that’s the exact opposite of how I would describe the year of 2013. It turned out to be the very worst year of our lives, right along with most of 2014. 

So, why? If I declared it and believed it with it with all of my heart, why wasn’t 2013 the best year of my life? Quite simply, I’m not exactly sure. Because, all I really know for sure is how much I don’t know. Just saying that we don’t know and realizing the truth behind the statement makes us all a little uneasy. Our minds long for answers, our hearts yearn for justice, and our souls pant for rest. Answers to all of the questions brought on by the terrible twists in this life, justice for all the tragedy we’ve endured, and rest from the pain and suffering that comes whether we like it or not. 
We all long for ease and some degree of comfort, but what we often get, instead, is chaos and challenges. Hurts happen to people all the time; disappointment is a regular occurrence; and suffering is so inevitable that God even promises that we will face it. Yet, somehow, we are still surprised when it comes. Why is that? Because, of course, we all want to believe the best. Who wouldn’t rather think of sweet little sheep at night than fiery dragons? Who would want to think of the worst thing instead of the best thing? 
Yet, this past year, even with all my years of choosing to think of the good over the bad, the lovely over the yucky, and the pure over the unclean, I have had such a hard time believing for the good. And, it’s effected me. I still have this yearning to believe that good things will happen instead of bad things; that justice will prevail over all. Because, even though I know that bad things do happen, I don’t want to walk around expecting that they will. I still want to believe that the goodness and mercy of God will follow me all of my days, even though that’s not what I can see when I look back to the day Christiano passed from earth to Heaven. But, I don’t want the one circumstance that forever altered my life to forever rob me of the hope that Jesus has already provided for me; and at such a high price. 
We are blessed when we believe without seeing. I don’t see anything close to the life I thought was laid out for me. I didn’t see my life ever ending up this way. And, it makes me really confused and angry. But, somehow I still believe. I still believe that God has a beautiful plan in mind when He looks at me. I still believe that He loves me and that He will never stop. He has kept me, and He has held me. And, that is what gives me the confidence to step head into this next year. Because, no matter what happens, in feast and in famine, in sickness and in health, in lack and in wealth, in life and in death – He will be with me through it all. I’ve tasted and I’ve seen the love of God that can never ever fail. 
But, how can I know that 2015 will be wonderful? I can’t. I don’t. But, I do know that God goes with me! If I make my bed in hell, He will be there. He WON’T leave me. Ever. So, with that one promise in mind, Happy New Year, friends. Cheers – to a New Year that will be everything God has declared it to be. Redeemed by Christ, rich in His Love, made new by His mercy, and thriving by His grace. Those are my blessed assurances going forward in 2015. 

I’m Writing A Book!

Fifteen years ago, God impressed it on my heart to write a book. And, for fifteen years, I’ve been running from it. The night before Christiano passed away, just about seven hours before the phone call that forever altered our lives, my husband, Chris, brought me home an iPad. I opened it up and he had written a ‘note’ to me. It read, ‘I got this for you so you can start your book. I believe in you.’ I remember feeling ready in that moment; ready to obey what God has spoken to my heart so many years ago; ready to put the long hours of work in and discipline myself accordingly; ready to share the raw details of my life and to show the world God’s beautiful redemption story.
But, at 6:41 am, on October 24th, everything changed. My story changed, my view of God became overshadowed by the darkness that flooded my being, my life – forever altered. ‘Who would be able to see the goodness of God in my life now?’ ‘Why would anyone ever read my story?’ That’s what I’ve spent the last year asking.
Over the last ten years, my life had been completely transformed, from the ugliest of ash to the most beautiful picture of God’s grace. But, I now felt it had been turned back; this time to the blackest and darkest soot I’d ever seen. And, I’ve spent many days doubting God’s plan for me; associating the book with what followed a few short hours after my heart’s declaration to do this thing.
Yet, somehow, fourteen months later, God is STILL being glorified. People STILL see beauty through the mess; sometimes, even I see beauty in my life.
All of this is to say…
Today is the day! Today, I begin the book that God will author through me. I’ve made a declaration to Him, and now I declare to all of you! Please, please, pray for me, and, PLEASE, hold me accountable! Let me know your thoughts, share your heart with me, ask me how it’s going, and, most of all, be honest with me – as the Lord leads this project and finished what He started in me fifteen long years ago. ❤️

Lessons From My Sons

My fourteen year old son, Brian, was having a hard time and really missing his brother last night. We had gotten in pretty late from church, and it was way past his bedtime, but he asked if he could write something for Christiano. Like me, I think writing helps him to release his emotions.

Here is what he wrote…

People say that time heals. I say that only God can heal. When I look at the past year I don’t know how I have gotten to the place I am now. It is still really hard to go to school and to church and put a smile on my face, even through the pain. I miss my brother, but I don’t think that I would have been able to get through this rough time in my life without God. God has been here for me when nobody else has and sometimes it’s hard to see that. A lot of people have heard that my brother died, but they have never heard about him. Christano was Funny, Smart, a Leader, a role model, and a brother…. But most of all he was a man I looked up to. When he wanted to do something, I would automatically do it because to me he was so awesome. When I heard he passed away a part of me left. I had so many questions, why MY BROTHER? How was I going to be the brother my siblings looked up to, and who is going to listen to my long boring stories and act like they are funny? God has shown me that Christiano is with Him and doesn’t have to deal with the problems of the world… Even though I love and miss him, I am glad he is in the presence of God.

Yesterday was a difficult parenting day. One failed to communicate something important to me, another got in trouble in a class and was asked to step out into the hallway for some time. Over the last year, I’ve had to watch my children cry themselves to sleep, act out, be withdrawn, question God. One of my children can no longer hug with ease because it triggers the awful memories of the wake and funeral. Sometimes, I just feel so discouraged. Reading this reminded me that, just as God is with me, He is with them. So many times, I just want to fix this for them. But, there is no fix. The most important and effective thing I can do for my kids is trust God with them, but that can be a major challenge when you’ve lost one. None of us are unscathed by this tragedy. We are all broken inside. Yet, somehow, I still choose to stand on the promises of God for our lives. The ones that say He will be with us and never forsake us; that He is near to the broken hearted. 

I love the part that Brian wrote, ‘A lot of people heard that my brother died, but not a lot of people know him.’ My biggest fear is that people who know me won’t know my son. It already feels like I talk about him less than I did a year ago. How will my grandchildren KNOW him? Is it truly possible for me to keep his legacy alive? This is just another concern that I have to bring before God. I have to let go and let Him do it – through me and through others.

 I also love how Brian has a sure knowing of who His help comes from. This journey of grief has taught all of us so much; lessons we just wouldn’t have learned without this horrific tragedy. Some of what God has taught me feels like it may have been suggested by Christiano. Haha. Things like slowing down and saying no; things like being content and being present in each moment. I hate the reason we’ve learned what we have, and I loathe the what behind our changes. But, I’m grateful for the grace of God that teaches and changes us in the midst of this darkness. Christiano is surely smiling when he sees me laying in bed with Nate at night instead of rushing bed time, or all of us sitting on the couch talking about life and me doing more listening than talking. Christiano was the best listener. I’m convinced he left me his gift. He left us all with something; multiple something’s, actually. There is a part of him in every one of us, and, for that, I am truly grateful. 

Psalm 121:1-2.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, t he Maker of heaven<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-16084A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> and earth.